I looked at Chloe with a pained expression as I left her house that Sunday. I couldn't believe what she had just told me. My mind raced when I learned the truth, but one thing was perfectly clear, now is not the time. Maybe there will be a chance for something more in the future, but not now. We needed to work on rebuilding our friendship back to where it used to be; I can't risk losing her because I have no patience. But as much as I believe I did the right thing, for one, split second, I regretted my decision. Only now, walking away from my soul mate, did I realize how badly I messed up.
I silently cursed when I realized I had to walk all the way home from Chloe's house. As I began the journey from her house to mine, I wondered where all of this had even come from. I knew I loved her, and I probably always would, but something had stopped me from taking her into my arms and telling her everything was going to be all right. Maybe it was because I didn't even know for sure.
'I always loved you,' her sweet voice, now just an echo in my mind, tormenting me, questioning why I had denied myself what I wanted so badly, for so long.
'I can't, I mean, we can't, I mean, we're not, you're not…' those words that drove the impenetrable wedge between us, now nearly impossible to get rid of. Their resounding noise rung constant in my ears.
But what hurt most was the image of her face. Her beauty revealed every emotion she desperately tried to hide, and it made her seem so delicate, so fragile. Her broken countenance, her sad eyes, and her slowly cascading tears now burned into the back of my eyes. It was too much to stomach, knowing I was the one who crushed her.
'No, it's fine,' that strange detached voice coming from a pair of cold, lying eyes that wasn't hers. I knew; we both knew it wasn't fine. What hurt worse was the truth could have brought her back to a semi-happy state for a short while, and take away the heartbreak. But I couldn't bring myself to say those words. Somehow, I knew things were better this way. We'll get through this. If we had furthered our relationship now, I couldn't be sure of what might have happened to us, if we'd even be able to recover if something happened. Chloe is too fragile, and I never wanted break her for good.
It took every ounce of restraint I had left in my body not to go running back to her house and tell her I will love her as long as I live. Even though I yearned to take back what I had said, I knew in my heart I had been right. We weren't ready for anything. She is lost and vulnerable; a relationship would just complicate things. Besides, her feelings could just be a product of her shattered identity. She just needs a friend right now, and if we're meant to be, then the right time will come.
It felt as if I had been walking forever as I thought of our relationship. I didn't want to believe what I wished for so long, had happened, and I had thrown it all away. It felt as if hours had passed before I reached my house, and I went through the usual mundane evening motions in a dazed stupor. I could not get her sad, dejected eyes out of my head.
I went to bed early on Sunday because I could not seem to focus my attention to anything else. Sleep seemed like it would give me some release, and let me escape from her voice constantly echoing in my mind. But those words, my words and her dead, broken eyes haunted my restless sleep.
Silence. That was it, not ever in our eighteen years of friendship had there ever been such an awkward car ride. Any of our prior silences were comfortable, because we knew each other so well. Now, in her car, driving to yet another meaningless school day, we were sitting in uncomfortable silence, wanting to say everything, but unable to say anything at all.
The only thing different in our routine homeroom was Jake. He kept looking in my direction, casting hateful glares. He seemed to have lost his grip on reality, or maybe it had always been like that, and just my perception of him has changed. I would think it's hard to look at someone the same after he caused so much pain to my best friend.
I matched every glare of his with equal intensity. I hadn't liked the guy to begin with, but after what he did to Chloe, the loathing I felt now was incomparable to any emotion I felt before. Those who haven't gone through this cannot possibly understand the degree of my hatred. I see him and can barely hold myself back. The worst part is he has no idea what he did to her, to us.
I looked over at Chloe and saw her staring off into space. I wanted to help her, but I had no idea what to do. I just hoped we would be able to get past this and go back to the way we were. Or maybe something more…
Through the whole day, Chloe was off with Sarah, and we were both artfully avoiding each other. After the glaring war with Jake in homeroom, I wasn't surprised to find him waiting at my locker before I went off to lunch. I was glad Chloe wasn't with me when I saw the look in his eyes, deranged, like he would lash out at any moment. I wasn't afraid of him—I've already proven I can hold my own—but I really didn't feel like getting suspended again, and explaining a second fight to my conservative parents. Clenching my fists at my sides I walked up to him. He didn't even say one word, and I was already holding myself back from throttling him.
"Get the hell out of my way," I said as calmly as I could when he was finally within earshot.
He just shook his head as I moved threateningly towards him.
"I thought I told your little bitch to tell you to stay away from me," he said, a mixture of anger and fear flashing in his eyes.
"She's not my bitch. She's not anyone's bitch," I paused; unsure of how much I should say. I had contemplated sugarcoating, but then took one look at him and threw civility over my shoulder. I continued tonelessly, "but let me tell you something, if you ever so much as look at her again I will break every bone in your entire body."
He laughed cruelly as he moved off of the wall and walked away, "you don't have the stomach for it."
My pent up frustration getting the better of me, I slammed my fist into a nearby locker. I hated the affect he had on me. I hated the fact I couldn't change it; I couldn't fix what he did to Chloe. He broke her, and I had added more hurt by not saying what I had meant to, and what she had needed to hear most in the world.
I turned my attention back to the hallway, which should have been filling with hungry teenagers. To my surprise, I saw Sarah walking with Damien, but I didn't see Chloe around them. I walked towards the two and stopped in front of them. They looked surprised when they saw my furrowed brow and somewhat worried gaze.
"Where's Chloe?" I questioned, wondering whether or not she had decided to cut school and go home.
Sarah spoke up, "I don't really know, we didn't have the last class together and I haven't seen her because we just got out…"
"Oh," I said, cutting her off, half of me wanting to find Chloe, and half of me wanting to avoid the painful state of awkwardness between us.
"Listen, Luke," Sarah started, interrupting my thinking for a moment, "she told me what happened, and you guys will get past this awkward stage, I know it, you've been friends for too long for something like this to destroy it, she, well you both just need time to heal."
I smiled, none too convincingly though, "I hope so."
After finishing the conversation with Sarah I walked around the school aimlessly, trying to find Chloe and avoid her all at the same time. I was so confused. Yesterday, I was sure that I did the right thing for her, for us. Now I had the horrible feeling I'd wasted my one chance with her.
I went through the afternoon in a similar stupor, not noticing whether or not Chloe was in the classes. Out of habit I met Chloe by the front doors, and to my surprise, she was there, waiting, with what seemed like a genuine smile on her face. We still walked in silence out to her car, but her smile reaffirmed what Sarah had told me at lunchtime, we would be okay eventually.
Following the events of this morning, we sat in silence on the way to my house. I wanted to tell her the truth, but knew I would have to wait. I couldn't pull this on her so soon after she… I tried not to finish the phrase but my mind knew what I was desperately trying to avoid.
Before I knew it, Chloe's car pulled up in front of my house and it was time for me to get out. I found myself struggling to leave because two words were weighing down on me, threatening to spill over my lips with a whole bunch of other emotions and realities I didn't want to realize.
I gained my composure and managed to speak those two words without letting everything else bubble over. "I'm sorry," I said, almost a whisper as I looked into her sad eyes.
My sincere apology held many meanings. I was sorry for the pain I had caused her in the past few days. I was sorry for shattering our friendship into a million pieces. I was sorry I couldn't take her into my arms and make all her pain go away, as much as I wanted to, I knew she had to heal on her own. But most of all, I was sorry for what happened. If I hadn't let my stupid pride take over, I would have been there. I wouldn't have let Jake get near enough to hurt her.
I got out of the car quickly after that, so absorbed in getting away from the awkward situation we put ourselves in I didn't hear her whispered reply.
A/N – OMG… I can't believe I'm actually posting this after all of these months. I probably have no readers left by now, but I guess this is more for me now than for the reviews…well, I hope you enjoy this after all the wait…